Q: What is going on with Onyx on Santa Barbara Boulevard? This construction started years ago. Now it is an eyesore with more new construction going on around it. How is the builder able to walk away? Do you know the status? Thanks. — Mary Ellen Bonelli, Naples
A: The builder hasn’t walked away from the stalled Onyx townhome project in East Naples, but the future of the condominium development remains uncertain.
“The developer ran into financial problems and, while he was working on that, his permits expired,” said Collier County Commissioner Rick LoCastro.
A right-of-way permit renewed in September by Miami Beach-based Polly Ave LLC provides a glimmer of hope for the unfinished development, which has sat idle for more than two years on 8.7 acres along Santa Barbara Boulevard about a half-mile north of Rattlesnake Hammock Road. Vertical construction stalled on the initial buildings for Onyx, a proposed 48-unit gated community designed to have a clubhouse and eight two-story multifamily residential buildings.
State records show that Polly Ave LLC is managed by Victor G. Bazzano Ambrosoni of Hallandale Beach. Bazzano Ambrosoni could not be reached for comment.
Because the seemingly abandoned development is in LoCastro’s commission district, he regularly receives questions about it, but halfway building something and leaving it isn’t illegal, he said.
“The guy applied for permits. We can’t force him to start building or put it up for sale,” LoCastro said. “He doesn’t have to share info with us. He’s a property owner. He’s got rights, you know, although our county attorney has stayed plugged in with him and so has Jamie French from Growth Management just to say anything you can do to keep us in the loop, you know.”
Reactivation of the project’s permits allows installation of several utility conduits and service lines beneath the Polly Ave right-of-way via a hydraulic directional drill. This infrastructure is being coordinated through utility providers such as Florida Power & Light and CenturyLink for lines desined to provide service to the Onyx villas, county records show.
“The minute he renewed those permits it did buy him some time,” LoCastro said. “Because he owns it, it’s under permit for construction or not and we really can’t make him do anything unless the fence falls down, the weeds get too high, small things. I can’t make him paint the building and plant flowers around it. I wish I could.”
After touring the site, LoCastro doesn’t think the deteriorating building shells can be completed without demolishing them and starting over.
“I think, in the end, it’s going to be sold, all that stuff will be torn down and then maybe somebody would just sit on the property as an investment. Maybe somebody would just buy it to own the land,” he said. “Because it has active open permits, it could be more attractive to a buyer who wants to come in and either finish the project or tear it down and put something else there. But, you know, he’s not breaking any laws. He’s got it all fenced off.”
That being said, LoCastro plans to personally continue to stay on top of the matter, similar to how he handled the rock-crushing lot eyesore a short distance away at Santa Barbara and Davis Boulevard.
“I meet with the county staff at least once a week and I have a short list of things we talk about every single time,” he said. “The rock-crushing lot and Onyx has never left my list.”
The buildings at the Onyx are not only an eyesore but they’re a significant safety hazard for vagrants, homeless people and unseemly characters, LoCastro said.
“Either sell it, build it or tear it down. That would be my position,” he said. “I don’t want those things sitting there looking like a ghost town for years until it changes hands four times. The way I’m going to be able to push that is safety. It’s the same way I was able to tear down the haunted hotel in Port of the Islands that everybody joked about for 10 years.”
Q: There was a furniture store that was supposed to come to 41 where the hardware store used to be near Park Shore, Naples. Nothing had happened since last year. Is it still happening? —Robin Cremin, Naples
A: Chicago-based Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design slowly has been making progress on creating its first Florida showroom in the former location of Orchard Supply Hardware at 3790 Tamiami Trail in Naples.
Originally planned to launch this year, the new furniture store is targeted to open next summer, said Colleen Smithe, director of advertising for Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design, which operates 10 showrooms across the Chicago area and northwest Indiana.
The move returns a furniture store to that 34,000-square-foot freestanding property in Naples. Before it was a short-lived hardware store, the building previously was home to Today’s Home Furnishings and Thomasville Home Furnishings. Orchard Supply Hardware opened there in 2016 but lasted only two years because parent company Lowe’s pulled the plug on the California-based boutique hardware store chain in 2018, closing all 99 stores nationwide.
Smithe’s Naples location will showcase the company’s complete line of furniture and décor and provide clients with full-service design, something that Smithe is known for in Chicago. Clients are matched with designers who assist them in selecting furniture, accessories, fabrics and finishes that match their personal tastes and budget, Smithe said.
The fourth-generation family business debuted in 1945 as Tone Appliances and Furniture on Chicago’s northwest side, pioneering the concept of custom-order upholstery, a service still provided by Smithe.
The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers. Email Tim at email@example.com.